Not long after hanging up my pointe shoes and cutting my hair to a chin-length bob, a friend asked me what it felt like having retired from ballet. Taking a few seconds to gather my thoughts, I responded, “It’s liberating. It’s liberating to not be defined by my job. I am no longer the ‘friend who does ballet’ or ‘my daughter the ballet dancer’. I’m just me. And it’s been a long time since that’s been the case”.
Considering retirement from ballet is a multi-phase, non-linear process. There are the fleeting thoughts of quitting because the body suffers just a little bit more every day from the physical demands of the job. There are moments of wondering what more the world has to offer outside of the ballet studio. There are moments of wondering what more do I have to offer the world. There are doubts about whether working to receiving applause from the audience and affirmations from peers are simply selfish ego-building desires. And this process often takes months, if not years.
Retirement from ballet is a change in lifestyle.
Personally, I had to two benchmarks I set for myself: dancing Juliet in Romeo & Juliet and being a professional for at least as many years as I had invested as a student – nine. I also declared that I did not want to retire due to injury. So perhaps my subconscious knew that my self-inflicted expiration date was coming up, but sure enough after my ninth season as a professional dancer, that aforementioned process of considering retirement started. I recall a gentle nudging that slowly but surely crescendoed to my final question: Am I no longer passionate about being a ballet dancer or is it that I am no longer happy dancing here*? I ultimately decided that it was most likely the latter that was a catalyst to the former, and this resulted in me taking my last bow just a few months later.
I spent the next five years as far away as possible from the ballet studio diving into the architecture industry; first attending community college in order to get certified in computer aided design (CAD) technologies and then making my way up the proverbial ladder to becoming a project manager. Then one day my dear friend Pablo – who had asked me throughout the years if I has ever thought about teaching – proposed that I sub a few classes for a colleague of his. For the first time since leaving the stage, I was intrigued and interested in the prospect of setting foot back in a dance studio. So I accepted. As I pursued my degree in Spanish Language & Literature (language is another passion of mine) and Business Administration, my subbing turned into a one-hour weekly pointe class which turned into two one-hour weekly pointe classes which turned into taking over one evening of the school director’s classes. As they say, the rest is history.**
So here I am now, the Editor-in-Chief of a website I created to share content that is solely about ballet. Perhaps there is no such thing as retirement from ballet but rather better expressed as “retirement from the stage”. Because as ballet dancers we have a special spark inside of us that exists because we were born ambassadors of the art; therefore we hold a responsibility to make sure it never dies. So although there may be a period of hiatus when that spark is dim, it is just a matter of time before it is ignited again.
Featured image for Retirement from Ballet of Dancers Bending Down by Edgar Degas